Monday, February 25, 2013



The day with no ambitions. Grey. Grey.
Stained-glass stars chained at the window,
Medusan mobiles hang like jellyfish,
motionless solar systems frozen in time,
mystic blue of burned out candle holders,
their flicker of light, a Monarch butterfly
in winter, perfectly intact, a wick in a pool of wax.

Sunday morning. Five churches open.
No carillon of bells. Four liars and one
that’s trying to face the facts. Bank, cafe,
Mac’s, gas station, a hospital with a landing pad
helicoptering the week-end’s heart attacks to Ottawa.

Soiled snow slobbering in the gutters
of a bleak street. Heritage fieldstone
refitted with aluminium windows, grandpa
in sunglasses where the old meets the new.
Among the local tribes, Scottish settlers,
Irish immigrants, British half pay officers,
even if you’ve lived here a hundred and fifty years
you’re still passing through. Good-bye. Good-bye.
Not enough dead in my past to be one of you.

A chubby adolescent primes his black baseball cap,
hitches up his pants, swings the door open
to the crowded cafe where there might be girls
as lonely as he is, and makes a hopeful grand entrance.
A grey haired woman darts from the bank
like a sparrow who knows her business.
Retirement capital of Canada, things advance
from accident to accident like the old woman
last summer who stopped her car without warning
in the middle of the road and got out to ask
the passers-by if anyone knew how to park it.
The lamp posts straight as florist’s daffodils
but one uprooted by a drunk, leaning like a mast
to starboard, counterpointing the upright by contrast.
An orange cone, thumb-tacking the spot
something happened out of the usual to make
Sunday worth talking about after the plates
are pushed away and the waitress comes to the table
knowing what everyone takes in their coffee
without having to ask if they’re from here or not.

Everyone lives as if they’d just read The Love Song
of J. Alfred Prufrock, though I doubt they’ve heard of Eliot.
You can tell by the way they walk how long
they’ve been landlocked beside the Rideau Canal
without mermaids, though they stock the lakes
with fingerlings of small mouth bass for American fishermen.

All well and good, I say, all well and good
though the suicide rate among the teen-agers
is the highest in the valley, I’m not passing judgement
from the God’s eye view of my upstairs apartment window.
I’m not logging the cadavers of dead trees
in the cemetery of a frozen swamp in winter.
I’m not trying to thaw the dreams of the mosquitoes out
beside the stove. Life here is a home remedy
for everything, mystic bumbleberry pies cooling
on the farmyard windowsills of rustic sibyls
who usually know more about what you need
than you do in the afterlife of some psychic catastrophe
and more often than not are uncannily right.
When it’s not being shown how to do things the smart way,
talent is quietly scorned by the schadenfreude
of incontestable skills that know how to fix it on their own.
Confess your helplessness with inquisitive humility
and everyone turns into Aristotle in a teaching cave
and shows you how to patch a leak in your radiator
on the cheap with eggs and pepper, or keep
the window in your woodstove clean by making
a paste of its ashes and rubbing it into your third eye
to get the soot and creosote off the way a poet
looks at things sometimes like an ambassador in chains
through a glass darkly, burning like a cubic cord
of green wood hissing at what the nightbirds used to sing
before the chainsaws showed up like a chorus
of morose delectation in the perils of insufficiency.

Better not to wear your surrealism on your sleeve
and keep your longings to yourself. If you get caught
crying out loud over some real or imagined agony
and you’re not a girl, things can get dismissively rougher.
Real men don’t waste their time feeling things
that can’t be fixed with tools. Fortunately for me
I’ve got a paint brush and a canvas I stretch
like a tarp on a pickup, though the poetry’s
harder to explain than the logic of metaphors
in a hardware store with emergency generators on sale.

Isolation’s just a red shift in solitude and my loneliness
is a small price to pay to get a lot of work done
like Roger Bacon in a woodshed without being accused
that often, of witchcraft. More hermetic by acclamation
than intent, an occupational hazard of what I do,
I’ve always got the river at night if I need someone to talk to,
and the companionable eyes of the stars to overcome
the cruelty of my cosmic cabin fever when space
turns to glass, and it gets so cold and impersonal in the abyss
even death shudders like a calving glacier when it realizes
how much holier things seem in my absence
than it could ever hope to be while I remained alive
to put the lie to it, like people in a small town, who survive.




The Milky Way leaves a trail of mirrors like a garden snail
across the night sky. After the wounded joy. The scar
of enlightenment on the waters of life. A flash of insight
many years ago when a firefly emerged from the shadows
like a mandarin of Zen after a lightning storm and there’s been
no starmap for the creative turbulence in the valley of my heart
ever since I graduated with thorny laurels
from an abandoned schoolhouse of doors
that taught me to open them for myself. Now I’m the master
of a shipwreck under full sail on the moon.

But don’t be dazzled by all the hype. If you die into living
more immensely, even the apricot blossoms
when they come to the green bough with the incredible voice
after the marrow in your bones has been frozen
like the plasmatic slush of a winter dusk on the road,
are mythically incomparable to the cool bliss of the stars
that illuminated the afterlife you lived before this that made
every spring thereafter seem a post-mortem effect by contrast.

Meditatively I sit on a tatami mat of rusty finishing nails
practising the suppler Yoga of pine needles
under a broken evergreen with casts of snow on its branches
on an outcrop of rock over a lake I keep returning to
as if I lived here once like a waterbird and left something behind
like a reflection of mine with eyes that drowned in me
when I was walking on thin ice in the dark that growled
like an unchained dog, to get to the other side
of swimming like a hourglass with waterwings for lungs
on the estranged side of the moon, without hope,
when the silence forgot how to sing and every lightyear
I sank deeper into exile with an uncanny smile on my face.

The bush wolves howl. And everything that is
sad, mad, wild and lonely about me answers back
as if time were trying to express what it’s like to be mortal
and have a past it’s sometimes hard not to miss.

Wolf moon, snow moon, hunger moon, waxing,
Spica in the hand of Virgo, Capella and the kids,
Regulus, Aldebaran, Sirius, Orion and the Lion
the Pleiades garlanding the horns of the Bull for sacrifice
to the chthonic goddess of the island in the bay
that’s more witch than warlock by the way
the cedars thicken like mascara on the treeline.

I look at stars with the same anticipation I felt
when I used to check my flowers first thing in the morning
to see if any had opened like supernovas in the night
while I was dreaming about the light being a gardener that transplanted
hydromorphic constellations into a starmap that never uprooted its weeds.

Detached and free enough to be emotional about the dead
I scatter the ashes of my heart like things I’ve felt and said
swept like a gust of stars and snow off the thresholds
of my seeing by the silver green brooms of the moonlit junipers
that try to keep the flying carpets of the hillsides clean
of the Arctic mirages the mind tracks in like a zodiac
with bestial house manners, wherever I think it might do
the undernourished roots of the waterlilies of dark matter
the most good. I mulch my solitude with autumnal memories
of equal nights and days at the crossroads of my ecliptics
and celestial equators like the tree rings of spring in my heartwood.
Though my tears keeping jumping orbitals like ripples of rain
there always a discharge of light out of all proportion
after a quantum release of every mystic singularity
of a firefly at the heart of the galaxy from a black hole of pain.

I don’t cling to my leaves in winter, nor grieve when
the blossoms of spring let go of me like thousands of poems
free as geishas in the gutters of my starmud to shine where they please.
Like one old mushroom once said like the bald head of a man,
the birds are flying in my roots, the fish are swimming
in the crowns of my trees. And I know as well as he
what hour it is. The midnight sun breathes in its sleep
through the gills of Pisces. A virgin sows
the unploughed moon with beards of starwheat.